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Leader Values

An Article on the Qualities of Leadership

Tom Gilbert — © February, 2005

"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power"
— Abraham Lincoln

Two of America's greatest leaders were born in February — George Washington, the first U.S. President, and Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth President. Hence the national holiday, Presidents' Day (more here). Both men served the in the highest office of the land and under very trying circumstances. They had to face great challenges and make decisions that required fortitude and courage.

It is natural for us to look to leaders of nations or companies for demonstrations of leadership. However, many people find themselves in positions of leadership. Some serve in that capacity without fanfare or recognition. Any parent knows the responsibilities that come with raising a family and making decisions that require as much strength of character as any president.

"What makes greatness is starting something that lives after you" — Ralph W. Sockman

One of the benefits of recording personal history is the passing on of values that come from making the decisions that guide and effect family and contribute to a legacy.

What are some of the characteristics of good leadership?

Fortitude and courage have already been mentioned. Decisiveness is key. The ability to look at all sides and to be well informed and fair are also assets.

Maybe the greatest characteristic is the willingness to do for others. Servant leadership is a word that gets bantered about, but how many truly understand it? It also seems like an oxymoron. Leaders are in charge; servants obey.

Any true leader knows that being of service is part of the job, whether in the boardroom or living room. Putting others' needs before one's own requires sacrifice and humility. Most would agree these are good qualities in any individual, especially leaders. Without such qualities leaders are self-centered at best and tyrannical at worst.

In Max DePree's book, Leadership Jazz, he compares servant leadership to a jazz band. Each player contributes his best in the instrument of his choice, using his unique voice. Often the best jazz sounds like it is about to fall apart, yet somehow holds together. Inspired playing creates exciting, cutting edge music that transcends the predictable.

As you ponder your life story, consider the areas where you've best contributed your gifts. Look at the results. Have they brought about new ways of seeing life? Has there been personal growth? If you recognize these values in yourself and others then you can learn from them and, better yet, pass them on to family and friends.


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